Jets

Sanchez, Cromartie Lead Jets Past Jags 32-3

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Antonio Cromartie, New York Jets

Antonio Cromartie, #31 of the New York Jets, returns a second quarter interception against the Jacksonville Jaguars at MetLife Stadium on Sept. 18, 2011 in East Rutherford, N.J. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Mark Sanchez and the New York Jets’ offense got things started early, and the defense made things miserable for Luke McCown.

Sanchez threw two touchdown passes as the offense broke a 16-game skid without scoring a touchdown in the first quarter, and Antonio Cromartie had two of the Jets’ four interceptions of McCown to cruise past the Jacksonville Jaguars 32-3 on Sunday.

Rex Ryan challenged his offensive line to play better than it did in the season-opening win over Dallas last week, and wanted to see the offense move the ball early.

The Jets (2-0) won the toss, elected to receive — a rarity under the defensive-minded Ryan — and efficiently moved the ball down the field before scoring on a 17-yard catch by Santonio Holmes.

First-round pick Muhammad Wilkerson had his first NFL sack for a safety early in the game, helping set the tone for a long day for McCown and the Jaguars (1-1).

Eric Smith and Josh Mauga intercepted McCown, who was replaced by rookie Blaine Gabbert early in the fourth quarter after posting a dismal 1.8 quarterback rating.

McCown was 6 for 19 for 59 yards. Gabbert, the team’s first-round pick, was 5 of 6 for 52 yards.

The Jets improved to 5-1 while wearing their navy New York Titans throwback jerseys, and are 2-0 for the second time in three years under Ryan. It was a crucial win for the Jets even so early in the season since they face three straight road games.

It’s uncertain if they will be without All-Pro center Nick Mangold, who left with an ankle injury late in the first quarter and didn’t return. Ryan said X-rays were negative, but that Mangold would undergo an MRI exam Monday.

Sanchez, who was rested for most of the fourth quarter, finished 17 of 24 for 182 yards with touchdowns to Holmes and Dustin Keller, and two interceptions. Keller had six catches for 101 yards, and Shonn Greene ran for 49 yards and a score.

New York was up 9-0 less than 5 minutes in, helped by its impressive opening drive.

LaDainian Tomlinson had a 7-yard catch on third-and-4, and after a 2-yard run by Greene, Sanchez got plenty of time from his offensive line and connected with Keller for 33 yards.

On the next play, Sanchez found Holmes, who brought down a high pass for a touchdown. Holmes had been questionable entering the game with an ailing knee and quadriceps muscle.

The Jaguars’ first possession was a sign of things to come as Sione Pouha deflected McCown’s first pass, and on third down, Wilkerson beat Jaguars rookie left guard Will Rackley and flung McCown to the turf for a safety. The play was upheld after a review by officials.

Josh Scobee made it 9-3 with 3:02 left in the first quarter with a 55-yard field goal that was helped by Marquice Cole’s interference penalty that set the Jaguars with great field position. But that was all the scoring for Jacksonville.

Nick Folk’s 38-yard field goal early in the second quarter made it 12-3.

After Smith intercepted McCown and a 15-yard personal foul penalty on Eugene Monroe gave the Jets the ball in good field position, Folk’s 45-yarder made it 15-3 with 26 seconds left before the half.

Keller’s 11-yard touchdown catch put New York ahead 22-3 with 3:50 left in the third quarter, capping another impressive drive.

The Jets started on their 8, but Sanchez connected with Keller for 37 yards. Three plays later, on third-and-4, Sanchez ran for 7 yards and former Jets defensive back Dwight Lowery was called for a questionable unnecessary roughness penalty as he hit the New York quarterback as he was heading out of bounds.

After nice 18-yard scoop catch by Holmes and a 2-yard run by Greene, Keller grabbed a pass that barely made it past the outstretched arms of Jaguars linebacker Paul Posluszny.

A few moments later, Cromartie picked off McCown and returned it 26 yards to the Jaguars 1. It was initially ruled a touchdown, but a review showed the ball was out of bounds before Cromartie got it over the pylon.

Greene then bulldozed his way into the end zone from a yard out to make it 29-3.

On the Jaguars’ next play from scrimmage, Mauga got the Jets’ fourth interception of the game and gave New York the ball at the Jacksonville 18.

The Jets settled for a 23-yard field goal to make it 32-3 after Sanchez appeared to hurt his right arm on third-and-goal from the 5 when he was hit by Matt Roth on a pass into the end zone that was knocked down by the Jaguars.

It looked as though Sanchez was OK as he came out on the Jets’ next possession before giving way to Mark Brunell and getting a nice cheer from the crowd at MetLife Stadium.

It was a far different outcome than the last time the teams played, when Scobee kicked the winning FG with no time left moments after Maurice Jones-Drew took a knee at 1-yard line to allow the Jaguars to run out the clock and complete a late comeback. Jones-Drew finished with 88 yards on 18 carries in this one.

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